Why Fortnite’s new quests have me seeing red

Today Epic Games announced new quests coming to Fortnite, but there’s a catch. In order to get these quests you have to watch someone streaming the game on Twitch. OK technically you have to be logged into a device that has Fortnite streaming…no one is forcing you to stare at it.

This is a little irritating to me. The Fortnite devs have been replying to MANY criticisms of the game with some variation on the theme of “This is Early Access, there are a lot of things we need to improve or build but it’s going to take time.” So they don’t have time to add proper tutorials or overhaul the clunky UI, but they do have time to develop quests for Twitch users. Their priorities are a little irritating.

But what has me seeing red is a nuance of these Twitch quests. There are two tiers of these “Viewer Quests.” The first one, anyone can get as long as they’ve linked their Twitch account to their Epic account. But the quests with better rewards are limited to people who subscribe to a Twitch streamer. This pisses me off.

Here’s why. First, there’s a lot of noise, now that people have been playing for a few days, about how Fortnite is Pay-To-Win. See there’re two kinds of loot in Fortnite. You can jump into a mission and open chests and find traps and guns. That’s great and all but traps are one use and guns wear out (pretty quickly). The better loot is Schematics that let you craft as many traps and guns as you like.

With me so far?

You only get schematics from Loot Boxes (called Llamas in Fortnite). You can earn some “mini-Llamas” by doing Shield Defense Quests, but for the most part you have to buy Llamas, either with V-Coins (which you can purchase with real money) or Founders Coins, which you generally get from Llamas. Early in your Fortnite career you can earn V-Coins by doing “Challenges” but those cap out early enough that plenty of people have now done them all. Once they’re finished, the only way you can get Llamas, and from Llamas better schematics (you hope…it’s all a gambling system), is through purchasing V-Coins with real money or somehow getting Founders Coins.

And there’s 1 way to earn Founder’s Coins that I know of. By doing the Twitch Subscriber quests.

So here’s Epic’s gameplan for you. Spend $40 to get into Early Access of the game. Play for a while and earn V-Coins to buy your first full llamas. Then when you’ve exhausted that system, pay some streamer $5/month to subscribe to his/her channel, leave your account sitting on the channel and hope that you are randomly selected to get the quest that you can do in-game to earn Founder’s Coin.

THAT is the system they’re working on while you’re sitting there frustrated that you can’t even view your inventory without starting up a mission.

Really screwed up priorities and a big middle finger directed at early supporters who don’t choose to spend money to watch some stranger play a game on Twitch. (Oh and if you prefer to stream on YouTube or Mixer or somewhere else? You too are getting the middle finger.)

I’m not rage-quitting Fortnite over this; I’ve already spent $60 on the game. But I won’t be spending any more money until they demonstrate that they value all their customers equally. If I get to where I can’t progress without spending money I’ll just play something else.

I’m done supporting the game, though, and won’t be blogging about it any more. And I suggest that if you’re interested in it, you wait a while to see what kind of company Epic is going to be, because right now that whole Free-To-Play model (which of course isn’t even free yet) is looking pretty ugly, and the company doesn’t care about you as a customer unless you’re promoting their game by streaming it.

Fortnite: Trying to explain survivor squads

Fortnite throws some terms around that can get confusing. Survivors and Squads both seem to have multiple meanings and initially I’d get kind of lost in all the survivor types and squad types.

Today I want to talk about Survivor Squads. Since Fortnite is down I’m going to try to do this without visual aids and from memory!

[Update: Added some images at the bottom!]

When I say Survivor Squads, I’m talking about Squads like the EMT Squad. In the Squads page, the left most pane leads you to these Squads.

The best analogy I could come up with is that these squads are to Fortnite what Runes are to a fantasy RPG. You know you’re playing a game and you get a weapon that has 2 rune slots so you put in a +Attack Rune and a +Speed Rune, or something like that? These squads do the same thing.

Every time you slot a survivor into these squads you’ll get an increase to one of a number of stats like Fortitude or Tech. The better the survivors (runes) you slot, the better the stats. These stats apply to whatever hero you’re running as. The “Squads” never leave this menu screen. They’re just buffs. These buffs also contribute to your overall power level (the number by the lightning bolt at the top left corner of the screen).

To maximize the buffs you get, you can in theory pick the ideal survivors (in your early days you’ll probably have to pick whatever you have). Each Survivor has a Job, a Personality and some Effects. Matching the Job to the Squad type enhances the buff. So slotting a Doctor into the EMT Squad, for example.

Also if your survivors have matching personalities it’ll increase the potency of the squad. Personality will be something like “Aggressive” for example. And then each Survivor will have 1 or more effects like +1 Trap Damage. If you slot in a few survivors with the same effect you’ll get a bonus to that effect.

I hope this at least gives you enough that you can figure out the rest in-game. You can slot, unslot and re-slot survivors at no cost so you should feel free to experiment. Also you can level up survivors which of course also increases the buff.

You unlock more of these squads, and more slots in these squads, via the skill tree.

There are also Defender Squads and Expedition Squads, but those are a completely different system.

Visual Aids!

Here is a low level Tank Penny with nothing slotted in Squads. You can see my overall Commander/Power Rating is pretty low with her like this. I should only go out on low level missions like this. My F.O.R.T. stats are 15-15-6-6 and those are all coming from the skill tree.

Penny with all Squads Empty

Here is Sidewinder Ramirez with no Squad. Even though she’s much higher level than Penny, my overall power score is still only 4. Ramirez has a higher Health & Shield values, partly due to her class (she’s a soldier) and partly due to her being level 21.

Ramirez with no squad

OK let’s slot some squads, starting with EMT which is the first squad you unlock. I had a Doctor to slot in here which is a job match. That circle with a cross in it was a little misleading to me because it just looked like a generic “add” button. But the icon inside the circle is indicating the job required for a job match, the cross meaning Doctor. Fortitude has jumped 10 points to 25 and Health has jump 54 points to 681 (hard to see in that green font). I haven’t sussed out the exact math here; I believe it is based on percentage and I’m not sure exactly how much of a boost the Job Ability Match gives. [Update: Matching the job doubles the FORT value increase.]

First Slot

Here’s Penny again, just showing that the Health, Shield and F.O.R.T. stats are the same on the Hero page as on the Squad page.

Penny with the Doctor Slotted into the EMT Squad

OK I’ve given the Doctor some help. These two cowboys brought Fortitude up to 54 and Health up to 839 (EMT Squad is all about Fortitude). These guys also Personality Match with the Doctor; everyone in this squad so far is Adventurous. And look, my overall power level crept up to 6. Again, I don’t know the exact math going on here. One of the new minions comes with Trap Durability and one comes with Shield Regeneration. I’m not sure that Personality or the two abilities do any good without being full. [Update: The abilities, at least, do not. I finally got a 3/3 for ranged damage increase and it gave me a 15% buff. Nothing until it was completed.
I’m going to guess 5% per point, so if I were to complete a 2/2 ability it would be a 10% buff. Not confirmed though.] In other words does having a personality match of 2/7 help or does it not kick in until you get 7/7. Same for the Trap and Shield abilities. Always more questions!

Filling up the EMT Squad

OK and now I’m jumping to where I’ve filled out all the squad slots that are unlocked. All the F.O.R.T. stats are improved and her Shield has been buffed up (Health goes up from Fortitude, Shield goes up from Resistance, I believe) and now my Commander Power Level is 11. So I’ve gone from Level 4 to Level 11 just based on slotting Survivor Squads. Same Penny hero, almost 3 times as powerful. And I can’t say for sure I have optimized my squads. I have a lot of survivors and optimizing squads is almost a game in itself. It’s a little like Deck Building in a CCG I guess.

All my Squad Slots (so far) full

Anyway, hope this helps!

Stuffing a Fortnite into a weekend

See Epic, I can do punny titles too!

So I’m going to try not to write a wall of text here but instead break my Fortnite thoughts into a series of posts. Let’s see how I do.

Fortnite is a co-operative harvesting/building/tower-defense game from Epic. It’s about fighting what are essentially zombies but rather that go gritty and grotesque, Fortnite has a whimsical, funny aesthetic. It is in a paid Early Access phase now and is expected to go free-to-play in 2018. Cheapest buy-in right now is $40 which I thought was a bit steep for an Early Access title, but then I liked it so much I spent another $20 to upgrade to the next tier and get more stuff.

I bought in on the PS4 and was delighted to find that by linking my PS4 account to my Epic account, I could play on PC too. I’m not sure if the reverse is true or if the same applies to Xbox and PC. My data is cross-platform for the most part so I can work on my fort on PC or PS4. Swanky.

So what do you do in Fortnite? The basic game loop is that you go out and smash things to gather resources, then you build a fort around some focus point, and finally you trigger the husks (we don’t use the Z-word in Fortnite) to attack and you fend them off. Rinse and repeat.

This sounds simple but there are a lot of systems within systems going on.

You play as the Commander, an unseen uber-boss of your little outpost of people. When you run a mission you pick from one of your Heroes to play as. Heroes come in the form of Hero cards that vary in class, rarity and abilities. There’s a strong CCG current running under the surface of Fortnite.

My current collection of heroes
My current ‘main’ hero

The downside of Hero cards is that you can’t customize them. I would be very surprised if that doesn’t change. Offering ‘skins’ for Heroes seems like an obvious money-maker somewhere down the road. Sidewinder Ramirez up there is wearing a special Playstation skin so the system already exists in some form.

You can play solo, with friends or match-make into a random group. I spent the weekend doing about 50-50 solo/random missions.

There are two kinds of building missions I’ve discovered so far: first there are homebase missions. These take place in your persistent homebase. You can pop into here whenever you want and tweak your defenses and eventually you’ll get a mission to expand. When you do this the horde comes and you (and possibly some friends) hold them off. The other kind of build mission happens on a randomly generated map. Your team enters, first has to find the whatzit that needs to be activated, then you spend some time building defenses around it, and finally you turn on the whatzit and the horde comes.

Home fort, core area
Home fort, first expansion. Not yet tested against the horde

There’s also at least one kind of non-building mission: one where you have to rescue survivors before time runs out. In all these random maps you’ll find hidden treasures and little events like survivors: people who’re trapped or under attack and need your help.

There’s also one little icon on your map for a “Help others” mission. If you enter this one you’ll be matchmade with someone else who needs some extra firepower. Often these end up being homebase support missions though not always. I really enjoyed doing these because I knew someone had gotten in over their heads and needed help. Sometimes I like to be the good guy helping others.

At the end of a mission you get both experience for your commander (every time you level up you get a skill point to use in a skill tree that I won’t go into today) as well as different kinds of experience that can be used to level up heroes, schematics and survivors. Also things I’ll go into in more depth another day.

So would you like Fortnite? Here’s the thing: you spend a LOT of time scavenging resources. I think over the weekend probably 60-70% of my time playing was running around destroying things to get materials. I actually find that kind of soothing; I’m not sure what that says about me. But running through a building searching cabinets and smashing TVs to get nuts and bolts is kind of a zen thing, and the game does reward exploration in several ways. My favorite example was when I came upon a graveyard with a mausoleum that was built over an old catacomb. I gleefully searched and smashed each crypt I found, and at the end there was a hidden treasure. Grave robbing! Always a good time.

Anyway for some people all this scavenging is going to feel REALLY tedious and there’s no good way to get around it. If you play Minecraft and sometimes level a hilltop just for the fun of leveling a hilltop, you’ll probably enjoy scavenging in Fortnite.

I think both the building and fighting the husks aspects of Fortnite are going to be a much easier sell than the scavenging phases. There’re a bunch of weapons (guns & melee) plus heroes get special abilities to help smoosh husks. That’s all good fun.

What I tended to do over the weekend is enter a mission solo, scavenge like crazy and craft plenty of ammo (ammo is the reason why you need to scavenge so much) and then I’d just leave the mission; you get to keep everything you found. Then, now that I had plenty of ammo, I’d join a multiplayer mission to actually try to complete the mission.